UNDP focuses on sustainability

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Government officials, civil society group representatives and researchers attended at an event launching UNDP's Human Development Report Cambodia 2019 in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. Heng Chivoan

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) on Wednesday launched its Human Development Report Cambodia 2019 that attaches great significance to relations between human development and environmental sustainability.

The report, hailed by Minister of Environment Say Sam Al as key to national planning, included numerous recommendations for Cambodia to manage natural resources more effectively.

Launched at an event attended by nearly 100 government officials, civil society group representatives and researchers in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, the 150-page report said development and environmental sustainability can co-exist without disrupting or hindering economic growth.

The report said the majority of people remained highly dependent on natural resources for food, shelter and income, making them vulnerable to climatic and other shocks.

“If Cambodia acts now, it can expand and improve the quality of its gains as well as ensure that [the gains] can be maintained. Much depends on reaching the rural areas that are home to about 80 per cent of the population, including the majority of people in poverty,” the report said.

It said careful management of natural resources would enhance their resilience and improve future prospects for human development in Cambodia.

The UNDP’s deputy regional director of its Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Valerie Cliff, said the organisation had worked closely with Cambodia to reduce losses of valuable human resources.

She said as with other countries, Cambodia needs to try its utmost to exploit natural resources in a sustainable manner to mitigate impacts from climate change which, she said, can take heavy tolls on the Kingdom’s economy and development.

“Similar to Cambodia, many countries around the world trade-off between natural resources and short-term benefits. You need to preserve and sustain those resources for future generations,” she said.

Sam Al said the report was key to supporting the ministry’s strategic policy and the government’s national development planning.

He said the report’s essence is a driving factor that helped protect sustainable natural resources along with the development of economic growth in the face of climate change.

“We have to do whatever possible to help people minimise their reliance on natural resources. So, the question is how? How can we achieve this? Providing an alternative that generates high income for them is a good choice,” he said.

Khim Sok, Oxfam’s Programme Manager of Natural Resource Governance who was present at the event, said: “It’s good that the [UNDP] Human Development Report Cambodia 2019 emphasises the importance of sustainable natural resources.

“Cambodia has been maintaining its economic growth over the [past] decade while continuing to exploiting natural resources.

“But the report should also look further into large-scale agribusiness investments, mining and infrastructure projects that affect natural resources.

“It should have included recommendations to large-scale agribusiness investors and mining companies to strike a balance between their investment and sustainable development,” he stressed.

The report noted that while more rural communities enjoyed better access to infrastructure, including roads, energy, economic and employment opportunities and other public services, the development pattern had taken its toll on the environment.

Citing an example, the report said forest cover had decreased from 57.07 per cent in 2010 to only 46.86 per cent last year.

The UNDP urged the government to strengthen law enforcement to prevent illegal timber exports and promote sustainable natural resource exploitation that helps drive the local economy.

The government, it said, should also encourage local communities to jointly manage natural resources and use their land more effectively.